STARLIGHT AND SMOKE

Hossam and Justinian watch the Bayfront Hotel in Long Beach intently. The Ventrue they’ve been assigned to stake out are waiting inside. They made preparations beforehand; weapons, armor and a taser hidden inside of plush Baphomet. 

Nora prepares herself and the group for the upcoming negotiation with the Anarch barons Isaac Abrams and Vivien Lewis. She quizzes Drew on coalition governments. He doesn’t know what that means, so she takes his phone, searches the term and hands it back to him. 

Drew feels the rage of his beast rise. “Don’t ever talk to me like that again.”

The barons live on a large and unused noir style Hollywood lot. Dmitry boosts a nice car from a bad neighborhood just outside their territory. Appearances are important.

Three people await them; Vivian, Issac and Jacks. Weapons are confiscated at the door. They let Dmitry keep his drug perepenelia. 

These vampires go back a long way, claiming to know all the old Hollywood stars. Isaac scans their auras and determines their emotional states. He is surprised to see that Dmitry’s aura portrays him to appear mortal.

Nora’s overture begins by pointing out that she’s with the Sabbat and that they share common enemies; The Camarilla. Currently, they’re just a party when they can be much more. Together, she posits, they could form a more structured governing body than what they currently have. 

Vivian counters, asking why they should form one with the Sabbat. To the Anarchs, they’re not much better than the Camarilla. Isaac makes the comparison between a corrupt president and the pope. 

They ask for the name of Nora’s “boss”. When she dances around the issue, he presses her. Nora tells him that he can find out for himself. The trio know a Lasombra when they see one. Isaac counters that this doesn’t build trust and reminds her that the Lasombra break their childer first and then turn them when they’re up against the proverbial wall. “You sure you don’t want to tell us who you work for?”

The trio begin to doubt Nora. When they ask Drew for input, he agrees with them that Nora is obfuscating with ‘legal talk’ and refers to their group as ‘leaderless’. The Anarch barons are amused by this and offer to bring Drew under their umbrella. They even go as far as referring to the Sabbat as insane. A view that Drew appears to share.

Growing impatient, Nora reveals that the Sabbat are interested in moving into the Exchange: an area currently dominated by werewolves. 

Realizing that they will eventually have to deal with the Camarilla and the Sabbat, Vivian agrees to entertain the idea of a deal. The caveat for this being that they have to do something for each of them in return. Nora tries to offer them a new home elsewhere with the fact that “Hollywood” is not what it once was and is slowly rotting away, just like their lot.

Isaac brings a counterproposal: an impossible task for an impossible favor. His ‘kid’ Ash has been missing since 2005. Find him and Nora has his support. Drew offers to assist by asking for something of the Ash’s to help with finding them. The trio agree to accept the mortician as collateral.

Vivian pushes for an impossible amount of military hardware. Nora calls the bluff and threatens to walk away from the meeting. Vivian folds, telling her to stay. This one’s got balls. They actually only want some weapons and explosives. No deal, however, unless something can be done to appease Jacks.

Jacks is into magical spookywoo stuff. Also, he wants someone to kill his sire, Jasper Nichols. They stay at the Bayfront hotel in Long Beach. This vampire keeps an old engraved pocket watch. Retrieving this as proof will gain Nora his support.

The Bayfront hotel rings a bell in Nora’s mind. She texts Hossam with new instructions: kill the Ventrue boss in the hotel and retrieve their pocket watch. Nora sweetens the deal by offering Jacks esoteric knowledge. Drew will call when they’re ready to give him back. 

Meanwhile..

Hossam relays their new marching orders and asks for ideas in clearing out potential mortals inside quickly. Justinian proposes creating a carbon monoxide leak inside the building, forcing an evacuation. 

Not finding any ghouls, they scan around for areas of the building that could house the Ventrue. The 9th floor’s lights are all off. Bingo. 

Hossam calls 911 and fakes a bomb threat. Billie is placed on watch duty at the back entrance with an assault rifle. Justinian takes point. Taking the fire escape up to the 9th floor, opposite Hossam’s internal ascent. Easy. 

Now the hard part: Executive level locks for the executive suites. Hossam breaks out the training with his multitool and the doors are unlocked. Justinian uses a frag grenade to blow open the doorway from the indoor fire escape. 

No blaring loud alarms, no one flees in terror from the hotel…

Moving in, Justinian discovers a technological haven. Lots of computers, traffic cam screens, police scanners and more. Inside, a skinny man spins in his chair and demands the watchmaker to identify himself. Justinian lets his weapons do the talking. His target remains unscathed from the attack. 

The skinny man responds with: “Get the fuck out of here!” Justinian has no choice but to obey. 

Hossam comes across an Asian woman smoking a cigarette in a meeting room. She’s waiting for someone. Not able to see through his invisibility, Hossam stakes her through the heart. He takes and scrolls through her phone, recognizing a number that called recently. Someone gave her a head’s up that the hotel was about to be attacked. He removes her head in a gruesome manner and sees her decay instantly. 

Seeing Justinian fleeing from a room, Hossam moves in for a second kill.

This Ventrue realizes he’s being preyed upon by an unseen attacker and attempts to dominate the assassin. Hossam manages to break through the mental barrage and successfully stakes his target. As Justinian walks in, Hossam winks at him and sinks his teeth into the Ventrue. “Let’s see if you were right.” The temptation for Justinian to participate is great, but he’s able to resist the call. 

Hossam remarks that the Ventrue’s fortress control room is the real power there. Justinian searches the corpse and finds a Victorian pocket watch with an inscription: “Always in Service”. This is a construction of a master watchmaker’s design.

Together they proceed to clear the next few rooms, finding no one else but seeing evidence that a third vampire was staying there recently. 

Billie notifies the pair that they’re coming up and announces proudly that they chose a name for their gun: Angel. Hossam approves. He sends Nora an after action report. 

Billie sees the diablerized vampire and is offered to partake. Maybe later. 

Dmitry and Nora go to a drive thru. He orders a cherry red slurpee and pulls over to throw it up after about two minutes. Nora’s phone explodes with texts from Hossam and calls the Wolf. One task is complete and the other is in the works. 

The Wolf then changes the game: Both tasks must be complete in order for their deal to be complete. There is pushback from Nora about what the deal was. One task completed for one favor. Wolf insists that this is the new deal and promptly hangs up. 

An irritated Nora texts her anonymous friend and asks help with securing the Ventrue fortress. They respond with a smiley face emoji. A cleaner will be along shortly.

They discover that the Ventrue were laundering money through non-profits. Underneath the facade, however, they find that the diablerized vampire abused his childer and believed that they deserved it. Billie begins to see that when you eat another vampire, you begin to become that vampire. 

A black windowless van pulls up and a vampire emerges. A man called Natjav nods at them, goes to the back of the van and brings out a big black duffel. Hossam offers to trade numbers, but he declines. 

“I don’t deal with shovel heads. But then you probably won’t be shovel heads for long…” The Cleaner moves in and the pack moves out. 

Meeting back up, Nora informs the rest of what’s changed with ‘the deal’. 

Nora proposes removing one of the trio who she perceived as paranoid and weak and the other two should fall in line. 

Justinian thinks they can stick to the deal. 

Sam thinks to manipulate a federal agency to deal with them, despite it being bad form. Come to think of it, the fake bomb threat he called in didn’t result in anything. The Ventrue knew something was happening there. They were prepared and the equipment they possessed suggests that they could have deep control of the police. 

Meanwhile…

Drew is shown Ash’s bungalow and given the keys. He finds a day planner. Ash was meeting with someone named “A” before he disappeared. Could the A stand for Abrams? Billie’s sire’s name is Astrid. Dmitry’s sire was Ambrose. 

Climbing into bed before sunrise, she finds a pair of woman’s panties. A woman’s voice calls out, saying: “hey those are mine!”

Drew turns and sees a ghost.

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